Or, a ramble that's quite ramble-y, even for me!
I’ve been reading for the last few weeks, folks – reading and thinking and grudgingly getting down the daily word count for the new book. (Most days I fail at this, miserably.) I also, perhaps more tangibly, had an interview earlier this week and have landed myself a new job. It starts in April. I’ll be (wo)manning the helm of the Outpatients Clinic at one of the city hospitals – checking patients in, processing bloodwork requisition forms, stuff like that. It pays extremely well. And it’s only part time, which will mean that I can do my own work on my days off. And my mother works at the same hospital, and we have the same hours (more or less), so I can snag a ride in with her. So for all intents and purposes, it’s probably the best possible gig I could have landed for myself at this point in time.
Halfway through February, my agent re-submitted the revised version of my current novel to the publishers who’d asked to see it again. Three nail-biting weeks later brought two more rejections and a few black days for me. That’s nine rejections in total, now. Seven revisions, all told, since that time a year ago when my wonderful agent took me on. But it’s okay. It’s okay. We’re getting ready to submit to US publishers now, and maybe there’s still good news in the future. I keep reminding myself that this is the process, this long, stretched dance of waiting and crying and picking oneself up off the floor. I keep feeling guilty every time my agent drops a cheerful little hang in there! message in my inbox. I keep thinking that I should be approaching this with a more worldly head, that I should be more confident, etc etc. That I shouldn’t be so raw and hopeful and so … overwhelmed, by it all. Because it is, after all, just a book. A book that I love dearly, yes, and a book that took up probably more of my life and mind than was healthy, but a book nonetheless.
Somewhere in the midst of everything there’s this growing voice in my head that keeps saying the next time you do this, make sure you have a life around you. Make sure, Amanda, that when the next book nears completion stage, you have other things to distract you, other things to take up your attention. Make sure that you’re living somewhere that you love, that you have friends nearby, that you’re taking yoga classes and practicing your violin and playing piano and reading lots of books, going for dinners, going for some walks along a distant sea, or river, or something like that. Which is funny, you know, because I am playing piano and practicing my violin and reading lots of books here. But it all feels … disconnected, somehow. Here, at this moment in life (says she, at the grand old age of twenty-eight), I feel disconnected from so many things.
I guess it’s all stemming from the fact, of course, that this little sojourn in southeastern Ontario is rather more isolating than I’ve been used to for the past ten years. 45 minutes from the nearest city and no access to a vehicle makes the trip into our little town library tremendously exciting. Were I to build a life here, really build it, I’d need my own car, which would be about as easy for me to afford now as would my own house. So in that sense, being here is not practical for me, and is therefore only temporary, and therefore I’m probably perpetuating the disconnect myself by continually looking ahead to that brighter horizon when I find myself back in the city. Lessons to be learned here, about living in the moment. Am trying, folks. Some days I’m better at it than others.
But the problem here is that this isn't the first time I've relocated to my parents' place after an unexpected mishap. It happened enroute to Scotland, too -- the summer of 2006 was meant to be a two-month stop at home prior to embarking on the degree at St. Andrews, and that two months turned into a year. I know a year isn't a huge stretch of time in the grand scheme of things, but the overall nature of things is what worries me, even if only a little bit. Is this going to be a pattern? Am I going to re-appear at my parents' house every three to four years, my latest venture having ended in financial ruin, with no option for me but to start from scratch again? Or, on a grander scale (cue the overactive, panicky, oh-so-youthful imagination of yours truly), in my headlong rush to learn all I could about writing, have I somehow missed out on the nuts and bolts of creating a life for myself? My overactive writer’s imagination has already imagining this Cayuga time stretching into years – one month at a time, and all of a sudden Amanda finds herself the spinsterish old auntie, still living at home, working at a so-so job and piling up those forgotten manuscripts in the basement. Coming home without any money or any prospects and entering back into the job market on the tail end of a recession is, surprise, surprise, really effing difficult. It’s altogether more difficult than those years in Edinburgh turned out to be, because I have no idea what happens now, no idea what to do next. At least, when I was in Scotland, working too many jobs and not eating enough and writing in my spare time because I had no money to do anything else (as good a motivator as any, I say), there was … something. There was a sliver of independence that made everything worthwhile, hard though it was.
Yet I suppose even that is questionable, in the end. Leaving the world of grad school and entering the murk of paying-back-your-student-loans-time really calls into question the idea of independence, or at least it did for me. And now I contemplate where else I could move in Canada, and what else I could do with my life as a way of supporting this writing habit (because like all junkies, this is where I’m at – it’s all about the fix now. It’s all about finding a life that can finance and allow for the writing), all under the shadow of that very large looming debt. Independence, and not, all at the same time. And so I wonder, ultimately, if chasing this dream of mine has outfitted me for survival in the world at large. Right now it seems as though all I've managed to attain is lots of debt, a smattering of international experience, and a way with an adverb or two.
But of course, this is the price that you pay -- you, the starry-eyed student who at one point wanted nothing more than to learn to be the best writer she could, the student who thought that the life in BC and the Master’s degree in Scotland was worth pursuing that aim. And of course it was worth it, but it still doesn’t make the reality of those loans any less confining.
So this is where I’m at, now. The foreseeable future, barring any sudden miracles, will see me in Ontario, processing bloodwork requisition forms and paying off those credit cards. (Interestingly enough, I'll be making more money at it than at any other job I've had thus far, and all I had to do for it was pass an entrance test wherein -- no word of a lie -- I guess half the answers.) Applying for other jobs. Working on the next novel, when and where I can. It’s certainly not a bad life, and things could be so much worse. A few more months, some debt paid off, and then a move somewhere else in the country, to a city that gives me more connections and more opportunities than I’m finding, at the moment, in a little farmhouse beneath the dark Cayuga sky. A place where I can juggle my habit and more of a life, more distractions. A place where I could maybe even take dancing lessons, and begin to once more see the world that exists outside my pen.
Or is this always going to be the struggle, no matter where I find myself? When I was in Scotland I thought it was, at least in part, about the money – I was wretchedly poor (even though I’ve talked about how blessed I was, all at the same time), and couldn’t afford to buy food, never mind have some semblance of a life outside my own house. So in that sense making my entire life about the novel was easy. But if I move somewhere else, and by some strange stroke of luck find myself with enough money to feed myself and go to the occasional flamenco twirl, will I choose the novel anyway?
The mind boggles.